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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands.Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea. The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and aparliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four constituent countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The latter three of these are devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capital cities Belfast, Edinburgh andCardiff respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are the three Crown

dependencies: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories. The UK is a developed country and has the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK is still referred to as a great power and retains considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks fourth in the world.

The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a member of the European Union and its predecessor the European Economic Community since 1973. It is also a member of theCommonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, theOrganisation for Economic

Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization.

Before 1707
Settlement by anatomically modern humans of what was to become the United Kingdom occurred in waves beginning by about 30,000 years ago. By the end of the region's prehistoric period, the population is thought to have belonged, in the main, to a culture termedInsular Celtic, comprising Brythonic Britain and Gaelic Ireland. The Roman conquest, beginning in 43 AD, and the 400-year rule of southern Britain, was followed by an invasion byGermanic AngloSaxon settlers, reducing the Brythonic area mainly to what was to become Wales. Most of the region settled by the Anglo-Saxons became unified as the Kingdom of England in the 10th century.Meanwhile, Gaelic-speakers in north west Britain (with connections to the north-east of Ireland and traditionally supposed to have migrated from there in the 5th century) united with the Picts to create the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century. In 1066, the Normans invaded England and after its conquest, seized large parts of Wales,conquered much of Ireland and settled in Scotland bringing to

each country feudalism on the Northern French model and Norman-French culture. The Norman elites greatly influenced, but eventually assimilated with, each of the local cultures. Subsequent medieval English kingscompleted the conquest of Wales and made an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to annex Scotland. Thereafter, Scotland maintained its independence, albeit in near-constant conflict with England. The English monarchs, through inheritance of substantial territories in France and claims to the French crown, were also heavily involved in conflicts in France, most notably theHundred Years War. The early modern period saw religious conflict resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of Protestant state churches in each country. Wales was fully incorporated into the Kingdom of England, and Ireland was constituted as a kingdom in personal union with the English crown. In what was to become Northern Ireland, the lands of the independent Catholic Gaelic nobility were confiscated and given to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland. In 1603, the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in a personal union when James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political institutions. In the mid-17th century, all three kingdoms were involved in a series of connected

wars (including the English Civil War) which led to the temporary overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the short-lived unitary republic of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Although the monarchy was restored, it ensured (with the Glorious Revolution of 1688) that, unlike much of the rest of Europe, royal absolutism would not prevail. The British constitution would develop on the basis of constitutional monarchy and the parliamentary system. During this period, particularly in England, the development ofnaval power (and the interest in voyages of discovery) led to the acquisition and settlement of overseas colonies, particularly in North America.

After 1707
On 1 May 1707 a new kingdom of Great Britain was created by the political union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland in accordance with the Treaty of Union, negotiated the previous year and ratified by the English and Scottish Parliaments passing Acts of Union. In the 18th century, the country played an important role in developing Western ideas of theparliamentary system and in making significant contributions to literature, the arts, and science. The British-led Industrial Revolution transformed the country and fuelled the growing British Empire. During this time

Britain, like other great powers, was involved in colonial exploitation, including the Atlantic slave trade, although with the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 the UK took a leading role in battling the trade in slaves The colonies in North America had been the main focus of British colonial activity. With their loss in theAmerican War of Independence, imperial ambition turned elsewhere, particularly to India. In 1800, while the wars with France still raged, the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland each passed an Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which came into being on 1 January 1801. After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792 1815), the UK emerged as the principal naval and economic power of the 19th century (with London the largest city in the world from about 1830) Unchallenged at sea, Britain adopted the role of global policeman, a state of affairs later known as the Pax Britannica. It was also a period of rapid economic, colonial, and industrial growth. Britain was described as the "workshop of the world" and the British Empire grew to include India, large parts of Africa, and many other territories. Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, Britain's dominant

position in world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many countries, such as China, Argentina and Siam. Domestically, there was a shift to free trade and laissez-faire policies and a very significant widening of the voting franchise. The country experienced a huge population increase during the century, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, causing significant social and economic stresses. By the end of the century, other states began to challenge Britain's industrial dominance. The UK, along with Russia, France and (after 1917) the US, was one of the major powers opposing the German Empire and its allies in World War I (191418) The UK armed forces grew to over five million people engaged across much of its empire and several regions of Europe, and increasingly took a major role on the Western front. The nation suffered some two and a half million casualties and finished the war with a huge national debt. After the war the United Kingdom received the League of Nations mandate over former German and Ottoman colonies, and the British Empire had expanded to its greatest extent, covering a fifth of the world's land surface and a quarter of its population The rise of Irish Nationalism and disputes within Ireland over the terms of Irish

Home Rule led eventually to the partition of the island in 1921and the Irish Free State became independent with Dominion status in 1922, while Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. The Great Depression (192932) occurred when the UK had not recovered from the effects of the war, and led to hardship as well as political and social unrest. The United Kingdom was one of the Allies of World War II and an original signatory to theDeclaration of the United Nations. Following the defeat of its European allies in the first year of the war, the United Kingdom continued the fight against Germany, notably in the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. After the victory, the UK was one of the Big Three powers that met to plan the postwar world. The war left the country financially damaged. Marshall Aid and loans from both the United States and Canada helped the UK on the road to recovery. The Labour government in the immediate postwar years initiated a radical programme of changes, with a significant impact on British society in the following decades.Domestically, major industries and public utilities were nationalised, a Welfare Statewas established, and a comprehensive publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, was created In response to the rise of

local nationalism, the Labour government's own ideological sympathies and Britain's now diminished economic position, a policy of decolonisation was initiated, starting with the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947. Over the next three decades, most territories of the Empire gained independence and became sovereign members of theCommonwealth of Nations. Although the new postwar limits of Britain's political role were illustrated by the Suez Crisis of 1956, the UK nevertheless became one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and was the third country to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal (with its first atomic bomb test in 1952). The international spread of the English language also ensured the continuing international influence of its literature and culture, while from the 1960s its popular culture also found influence abroad. As a result of a shortage of workers in the 1950s, the British Government encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries, thereby transforming Britain into a multi-ethnic society in the following decades. In 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), and when the EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, it was one of the 12 founding members. From the late 1960s Northern Ireland suffered communal and paramilitary violence (sometimes affecting other

parts of the UK and also the Republic of Ireland) conventionally known as the Troubles. It is usually considered to have ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998. Following a period of widespread economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the Conservative Government of the 1980sinitiated a radical policy of deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, the sale of state-owned companies (privatisation), and the withdrawal of subsidies to others] Aided, from 1984, by the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues, the UK experienced a period of significant economic growth. Around the end of the 20th century there were major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales following prelegislative referendums, and the statutory incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Domestic controversy surrounded some of Britain's overseas military deployments in the 2000s (decade), particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Geographical definition
Great Britain lies on the European continental shelf and to the northwest of Continental Europe and east of Ireland. It is separated from the continent by the North Sea and by the English Channel, which narrows to 34 kilometres (21 mi) at the Straits of Dover.It stretches over about ten degrees of latitude on its longer, north-south axis, and occupies an area of 209,331km2 (80,823 sq mi), excluding all the smaller surrounding islands of the archipelago. The North Channel, Irish Sea St George's Channel and Celtic Seaseparate the island from the island of Ireland to its west. The island is physicallyconnected with continental Europe via theChannel Tunnel, the longest undersea railtunnel in the world which was completedin 1993. Geographically, the island ismarked by low, rolling countryside in theeast and south, while hills and mountainspredominate in the western and northernregions. It is surrounded by over 1,000smaller islands and islets. The greatestdistance between two points is

601.5 miles(968 km) (between Land's End, Cornwalland John O'Groats, Caithness), or 838 miles(1,349 km) using the national roadnetwork.The English Channel is thought to havebeen created between 450,000 and180,000 years ago by two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods caused by thebreaching of the Weald-Artois Anticline, aridge which held back a large proglaciallake, now submerged under the NorthSea.Around 10,000 years ago, during theDevensian glaciation with its lower sealevel, Great Britain was not an island, butan upland region of continentalnorthwestern Europe, lying partiallyunderneath the Eurasian ice sheet. The sealevel was about 120 metres (390 ft) lowerthan today, and the bed of the North Seawas dry and acted as a land bridge, nowknown as Doggerland, to the Continent. Itis generally thought that as sea levelsgradually rose after the end of the lastglacial period of the current ice age,Doggerland became submerged beneaththe North Sea, cutting off what was previously the British peninsula from theEuropean mainland by around 6500 BC.

The oldest mention of terms related to the formal name of Britain was made by Aristotle (c. 384 322 BC), in his text On the Universe, Vol. III. To quote his works,"There are two very large islands in it, called the British Isles, Albion and Ierne The archipelago has been referred toby a single name for over 2,000 years: theterm British Isles derives from terms usedby classical geographers to describe thisisland group. Pliny the Elder (c. 23 79 AD)in his Natural History (iv.xvi.102) records of Great Britain: "It was itself named Albion,while all the islands about which we shallsoon briefly speak were called theBritanniae."[dubious discuss]The earliest known name of Great Britain isAlbion ( ) or insula Albionum, from either the Latin albus meaning white(referring to the white cliffs of Dover, in the view of Britain from the continent) orthe island of the Albiones, firstmentioned in the Massaliote Periplus in the sixth century BC, and

by PytheasThe name Britain descends from the Latin name for Britain, Britannia or Brittni a, theland of the Britons. Old French Bretaigne(whence also Modern French Bretagne) and Middle English Bretayne, Breteyne. The French form replaced the Old EnglishBreoton, Breoten, Bryten, Breten (alsoBreoton-lond, Breten-lond). Britannia wasused by the Romans from the 1st centuryBC for the British Isles taken together. It isderived from the travel writings of theancient Greek Pytheas around 320 BC, wich described various islands in the north atlantic as far north as Thule(probably Norway).The peoples of these islands of Prettanike were called the , Priteni or Pretani.Priteni is the source of the Welsh language term Prydain, Britain, which hasthe same source as the Goidelic termCruithne used to refer to the early Brythonic speaking inhabitants of Ireland.The latter were later called Picts orCaledonians by the Romans.

After the Anglo-Saxon period, Britain wasused as a historical term only. Geoffrey of Monmouth in his pseudohistorical HistoriaRegum Britanniae (c. 1136) refers to theisland of Great Britain as Britannia major("Greater Britain"), to distinguish it fromBritannia minor ("Lesser Britain"), thecontinental region which approximates to modern Britanny. The term Great Britainwas first used officially in 1474, in the instrument drawing up the proposal for amarriage between Cecily the daughter of Edward IV of England, and James the son of James III of Scotland, which described it as"this Nobill Isle, callit Gret Britanee." Asnoted above it was used again in 1604,when King James VI and I styled himself "King of Great Brittaine, France andIreland."

USE OF THE TERM Great Britain

The term Great Britain refers to the largestisland within the United Kingdom of GreatBritain and Northern Ireland. It is also usedto refer to England, Scotland and Wales asa unit (including many smaller islandswhich "have administrative ties with themainland"). It does not include NorthernIreland. The term Britain, as opposed to GreatBritain, has been used to mean the UnitedKingdom, for example in officialgovernment yearbooks between 1975 and2001. Since 2002, however, the yearbookshave only used the term "UnitedKingdom".The initials GB or GBR are used in someinternational codes instead of the initialsUK to refer to the United Kingdom.Examples include: Universal Postal Union,international sports teams, NATO, the International Organization for Standardization country codes ISO 3166-2and ISO 3166-1 alpha3, and internation allicence plate codes.On the Internet, .uk is used as a country code top-level domain for the UnitedKingdom. A .gb top-level domain was also used to a limited extent in the past, but this is now effectively obsolete because the domain name registrar will not take new registrations.

Animal diversity is modest, as a result of factors including the island's small land area, the relatively recent age of the habitats developed since the last Ice Ageand the island's physical separation from continental Europe, and the effects of seasonal variability.Great Britain also experienced early industrialisation and is subject to continuing urbanisation, which have contributed towards the overall loss of species.A DEFRA study from 2006suggested that 100 species have become extinct in the UK during the 20th century,about 100 times the background extinctionrate.However, some species, such as the brown rat, red fox, and introduced grey squirrel, are well adapted to urban areas.Rodents make up 40% of the total number of mammal species in Great Britain. These include squirrels, mice, voles, rats and the recently reintroduced European beaver.There is also an abundance of rabbits, hares, hedgehogs, shrews, moles and several species of bat.

Carnivorous mammals include the fox, badger, otter,weasel, stoat and elusive wildcat. Various species of seal, whale and dolphin are found on or around British shores and coastlines. The largest landbased wild animals today are deer. The red deer is the largest species, with roe deer and fallow deer also prominent; the latter was introduced by the Normans. Sika deer andtwo more species of smaller deer, muntjacand Chinese water deer, have been introduced, muntjac becoming wide spreadin England and parts of Wales while Chinese water deer are restricted mainly to East Anglia. Habitat loss has affected many species. Extinct large mammals include the brown bear, grey wolf and wild boar; the latter has had a limited reintroduction in recent times.There is a wealth of birdlife in Britain, 583species in total, of which 258 breed on the island or remain during winter. Because of its mild winters for its latitude, GreatBritain hosts important numbers of many wintering species, particularly ducks, geese and swans. Other

well known bird species include the golden eagle, grey heron,kingfisher, pigeon, sparrow, pheasant,partridge, and various species of crow,finch, gull, auk, grouse, owl and falcon.There are six species of reptile on the island; three snakes and three lizards including the legless slow worm. One snake, the adder, is venomous but rarely deadly. Amphibians present are frogs,toads and newts.

There are many species of fungi including lichens-forming species and the mycobiota of Great Britain is less poorly known thanin many other parts of the world. The mostrecent checklist of Basidiomycota (bracketfungi, jelly fungi, mushrooms and toadstools, puffballs, rusts and smuts),published in 2005, accepts over 3600species. The most recent checklist of Ascomycota (cup fungi and their allies,including most lichen-forming fungi),published in 1985, accepts another 5100species.These two lists did not include conidial fungi (fungi mostly with affinities in the Ascomycota but known only in their asexual state) or any of the other main fungal groups (Chytridiomycota,Glomeromycota and Zygomycota). Thetotal number of fungal species known to date from Great Britain thus very probabl yexceeds 10,000. There is widespread agreement among mycologists that many others are yet to be discovered.

In a similar sense to fauna, and for similar reasons, the flora of Great Britain is impoverished compared to that of continental Europe. Great Britain's floracomprises 3,354 vascular plant species, of which 2,297 are native and 1,057 have been introduced into the island. The island has a wide variety of trees, including native species of birch, beech, ash, hawthorn, elm, oak, yew, pine, cherry and apple. Other trees have been naturalised, introduced especially from other parts of Europe (particularly Norway) and North America. Introduced trees include several varieties of pine, chestnut, maple, spruce, sycamore and fir, as well as cherry plum and pear trees. The tallest species are the Douglas firs; two specimens have been recorded measuring 65 metres or 212feet.The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is the oldest tree in Europe.There are at least 1,500 different species of wildflower in Britain, Some 107 species are particularly rare or vulnerable and are protected by the Wildlife and Country side Act 1981. It is

illegal to uproot any wildflowers without the landowner's permission. A vote in 2002 nominated various wildflowers to represent specific counties. These include red poppies, bluebells, daisies, daffodils, rosemary,gorse, iris, ivy, mint, orchids, brambles, thistles, buttercups, primrose, thyme, tulips, violets, cowslip, heather and many more. There are also many species of algae and mosses across the island. Christianity is the largest religion on the island and has been since the Early Middle Ages, though its existence on the island dates back to the Roman introduction in antiquity and continued through Early Insular Christianity. The largest form practised in present day Britain is Anglicanism (also known as Episcopalism in Scotland); dating from the 16th century Reformation, the religion regards itself as both Catholic and Reformed. Head of the Church is the monarch of the United Kingdom as the Supreme Governor. It has the status of established church in England.

There are just over 26 million adherents to Anglicanism in Britain today, although the number of active adherents (those who regularly attend services) is only around one million. The second largest Christian practice in Britain is the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church which traces its formal, corporate history in Great Britain to the 6th century with Augustine's mission and was the main religion on the island for around a thousand years. There are over 5million adherents in Britain today; 4.5million in England and Wales[61] and750,000 in Scotland, although less than a million Catholics regularly attend mass The Church of Scotland, a form of Protestantism with a Presbyterian system of ecclesiastical polity is the third most numerous on the island with around 2.1million members. Introduced in Scotland by clergyman John Knox, it has the statusof national church in Scotland. Themonarch of the United Kingdom isrepresented prominently by a Lord HighCommissioner. Methodism is the fourthlargest and grew out

of Anglicanismthrough John Wesley.It gained popularityin the old mill towns of Lancashire andYorkshire, also amongst tin miners inCornwall. The Presbyterian Church of Wales, which follow Calvinistic Methodism,is the largest denomination in Wales. Thereare other non-conformist minorities, suchas Baptists, Quakers, the United Reformed Church (a union of Congregationalists and English Presbyterians), Unitarians and more.The first patron saint of Great Britain was Saint Alban. He was the first Christian martyr dating from the Romano-British period, condemned to death for his faith and was sacrificed to the pagan gods.In more recent times, some have suggested the adoption of Saint Aidan as another patron saint of Britain. Originally from Ireland, he worked at Iona amongst the DlRiata and then Lindisfarne where he restored Christianity to Northumbria.Three constituent countries of the United Kingdom located on the island have patronsaints; Saint George and Saint Andrew arerepresented in the flags of

England andScotland respectively. These two saintlyflags combined form the basis of the GreatBritain royal flag of 1604. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales.There are many other British saints, some of the best known include; Cuthbert, Columba, Patrick, Margaret, Edward the Confessor, Mungo, Thomas More, Petroc, Bede and Thomas Becket. Numerous non-Christian religions are practised in Great Britain.Jews were a small minority on the island since 1070. The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 but allowed to return in 1656. Their history in Scotland is quite obscure until later migrations from Lithuania. Especially since the 1950s religions from the former colonies have become more prevalent; Islam is the most common of these with around 1.5 million adherents in Britain. A total of more than 1 million people practise either Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism, religions introduced from India and South East Asia.


The largest cities in Great Britain by urban area population (not including the capital cities listed under) are Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. The capitals of the three countries of the United Kingdom which comprise Great Britain are:

England: London Scotland: Edinburgh Wales: Cardiff